published Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Spurrier has Gamecocks in spotlight

Georgia flanker Tavarres King reaches for extra yards as Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson tries to pull him back Saturday at Samford Stadium in Athens, Ga.
Georgia flanker Tavarres King reaches for extra yards as Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson tries to pull him back Saturday at Samford Stadium in Athens, Ga.
Photo by Patrick Smith.

ATHENS, Ga. — Downplaying the magnitude of Saturday night's college football matchup between No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 South Carolina at Williams-Brice Stadium is difficult, and nobody is really trying.

"It's huge," Georgia senior receiver Tavarres King said Tuesday. "It's probably the biggest one I've ever been a part of, certainly in the regular season."

Each team is 5-0 overall and 3-0 in Southeastern Conference play. Florida also is 3-0 in the SEC East, and the other four East teams still are searching for their first league triumphs.

South Carolina won its first East championship in 2010, and Georgia won it last season despite an early loss to the Gamecocks, who enter Saturday having won 16 of their last 18 games.

"Things have changed around here a bit," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "Being very competitive with everyone in the conference is something that certainly we're proud of. We're not the best team, but we're up there amongst the best teams right now, obviously, by looking at the records.

"The Eastern Division run has been interesting. Kentucky is the only team that has beaten us in two and a half years within the division."

Spurrier humiliated the Bulldogs as Florida's coach from 1990 to 2001, thumping Georgia with his Fun 'N' Gun offense 11 times in 12 tries. He is going after a third straight win over Georgia with the Gamecocks, which is something only former Gators coach Urban Meyer has accomplished against Mark Richt.

This time around, Spurrier is thriving with zone-read runs behind the tandem of junior tailback Marcus Lattimore and junior quarterback Connor Shaw.

"I think Coach Spurrier is doing what good coaches do," Richt said, "and that is to take your personnel and find out what they do best to give you the best chance of winning, regardless of what you might think is a fun and exciting thing to do. Winning is more exciting than chunking the ball around the yard if you are not getting the victories."

Richt's Bulldogs have not faced a top-10 team since last season's SEC championship game, when they were pounded 42-10 by No. 1 LSU. Saturday will be the first pairing of top-10 teams involving Georgia since 2008, when the No. 8 Bulldogs were pummeled by Meyer's No. 5 Gators 49-10.

Georgia's last victory in a top-10 showdown was its 41-10 blowout of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl after the '07 season.

"It's nice to be in the middle of the college football world," Richt said. "A couple of years ago, when we were 6-7, it wasn't very long into that season where no one really cared what Georgia did on any given Saturday. Last year, we kind of got rolling enough to where we got a chance to play in some big games, and we got to start playing sometime other than noon, and that was nice.

"Now we are in position where everybody is going to know what goes on this weekend. Everybody is kind of curious and talking about it. That's good. We can't focus on it, but it's a good place to be."

The Gamecocks will be trying for their first win in a matchup of top-10 teams after dropping the first four to Oklahoma State in the 1984 Gator Bowl, Miami in 1987, LSU in the '87 Gator Bowl and Arkansas last year. South Carolina also has at stake a 10th consecutive win dating back to last season, which would set a program record.

For Spurrier, a victory Saturday would be his 250th, which includes the 48 he had with the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits and the NFL's Washington Redskins.

"It's a huge game, and we all know it," Spurrier said. "Georgia is a very good team, and Tennessee is a pretty good team, too, and we've got them here down the road. It's sort of good we've got two of our last three divisional games here at home."

Said Georgia cornerback Sanders Commings: "Hopefully we can put a little dent into his history."

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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